In considering moving some of their business operations to the cloud the CIOs round the table at last week’s Salesforce.com cloud computing workshop voiced some interesting issues that they had had to get to grips with.
Firstly in running with a cloud based service a business is effectively entrusting key corporate data to a third party and effectively relinquishes control over it.
This means that you have to be sure of the integrity of the cloud. Salesforce.com operates 3 global datacentres in North America, Europe and Asia. These are linked with multiple OC48 fibre connections and replicate with each other on an ongoing basis. Of course this doesn’t preclude a domino effect type disaster.
A prudent business will also store it’s own data elsewhere. Coincidentally Timico’s own cloud storage service backs up to two secure and geographically diverse locations so customers then have their data stored in three spots – our two and their own local storage. It would be over the top for us to shift data to the Far East 🙂
The nature of the concern voiced at the workshop was not so much the safety of the data but its retrievability in the event that a customer wanted to take it’s business elsewhere. So when looking at a cloud service the portability of your Bytes is important. Whilst simply retrieving stored data is straightforward (bandwidth permitting) retrieving the business logic built into may not be so careful planning is likely to be required.
Different cloud services almost certainly offer different applications and features and it will be a while before these harmonise into a single set of features in the way that PBXs and CRM packages have done over the years. At the moment though you are unlikely to be able to move to a like for like service. Choose your partner well at the outset.
Another comment from the floor related to the fact that although part of the sales pitch from a cloud vendor was ease of scalability typically this meant that they let you scale up easily but were not so accommodating when you want to scale down. It is understandable that service providers want to maximise their take but I tend to agree that people should be able to reduce their commitment as well as grow it. It should be a stimulus for the quality of a service to be kept up.
Our VoIP service does typically allow customers to do this with one month’s notice so it can be done.